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New York Times Bestselling author Colleen Houck is a lifelong reader whose literary interests include action, adventure, paranormal, science fiction, and romance. When she’s not busy writing, she likes to spend time chatting on the phone with one of her six siblings, watching plays, and shopping online. Colleen has lived in Arizona, Idaho, Utah, California, and North Carolina and is now permanently settled in Salem, Oregon with her husband and a huge assortment of plush tigers.
A tiger left behind. A goddess in need of an ally. Stranded in a time and place he never wished for, Kishan Rajaram struggles to forget the girl he loves and the brother who stole her away as he fulfills his divine role—that of assisting the beautiful, yet extremely irritable, goddess Durga.
Bonus Material from Colleen Houck
For this hunt my bonus material is an excerpt from my upcoming book The Lantern’s Ember. For those of you who don’t know anything about this book yet, it’s a mashup of Halloween and steampunk. It features all my favorite Halloween characters including the Headless Horseman, black cats, witches, vampires, werewolves, the invisible man, a mad scientist, skeletons, Igor, pirates, the Loch Ness Monster, and even Frankenstein!
Kneeling behind a gravestone, Ember placed her arm on top of it and then centered her weapon on her arm. Carefully, she sighted along the barrel, using an old scarecrow as a target, and flicked the lever to the right. Jack glanced down and saw the vial contained a nebulous green gas.
“What’s in there?” Jack asked, his voice creaking with nerves like a weathered rocking chair left out in the rain.
“A sort of acid cloud,” was her response.
“Acid?” Jack hissed. “I think we should pick something less toxic,” he said.
“Too late,” Ember said with a smile. She’d touched her thumb to the strip of metal and it turned red-hot. Then the hammer went down with a click and there was a thwomp, like a cork being pulled out of a wine bottle. A green jet soared across the field, and when it hit, the scarecrow burst into a cloud. Not a moment later there was a hiss as the pumpkin face melted into a pile of goo and plopped onto the ground next to a smoking pile of discarded clothing, steaming hay, and a blackening wood frame.
Swallowing and jerking his suddenly tight collar away from his neck, Jack sputtered and glanced at his own grinning pumpkin. “That’s…that’s—”
“Incredible? Amazing?” Ember filled in proudly.
“Terrible!” Jack said.
“Uh, no. I believe the word you’re searching for is, ingenious.”
Jack was about to tell Ember how this exercise in witchy weapon-making was ill-conceived at best, when he cocked his head. A familiar scent tickled his nose. “Vampires,” he muttered under his breath.
“Really?” Ember stood straight up, looking around the field, absolutely unafraid.
“Get down!” Jack yelled, taking her hand and tugging until she was down next to him. “Do you want to be killed?”
“Maybe I need to meet another Otherworlder and get a second opinion,” she said. “Besides, shouldn’t he be more afraid of you than you are of him?
“Engaging a vampire is foolish,” Jack said, ignoring Ember’s question. She wasn’t wrong, and that bothered him. “Stay here. I’ll take care of it and then we can finish this discussion.”
“jack, you don’t understand. It hurts.” She blinked, a sheen filling her eyes as she rubbed her stomach. “I have to…I–”
Taking her face in his hands, Jack touched his thumbs to the soft curves of her cheeks, tracing over them gently. “Please, Ember. Will you stay here?”
Ember’s heartbeat escalated and she nodded woodenly, still feeling his touch on her cheeks even after he left, which made the incessant pull in her gut, the one drawing her to Jack’s bridge, lessen to a tolerable level. Jack’s foggy form and his pumpkin disappeared in the trees.
With her back to the gravestone, she kicked a furrow in the dirt, frustrated that she’d let him distract her so easily. She heard a noise, and spun around. As quietly as she could, she lifted her head just far enough so she could peek over the edge of the stone and then gasped.
A man lounged nearby. He sat on a stone bench, his arm draped carelessly across the next headstone over while a leg dangled over the arm of the bench. As he kicked his leg languidly back and forth, he watched her with glittering eyes. She hadn’t heard him approach at all and when she looked down, she didn’t see any footprints except her own and Jack’s.
The man’s lips twitched in a slow smile that built until it turned almost into a leer. It made Ember very uncomfortable.
“Hello, there,” the man said.
“Hello,” Ember said, grasping onto the gravestone and pulling herself up. She lifted the gun at the same time and cocked the hammer. To her consternation, the man seemed completely unperturbed to have a weapon pointed in his direction.
“Ah. How disappointing,” he said. “I was rather hoping you were going to be a good little hostess and offer me a drink.”
The Lantern’s Ember is available for preorder now! Enjoy the hunt everyone!